Just because a team is in a lower-tier bowl doesn’t mean it won’t be a great game. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Maryland and Boston College defenses do against two of the nation’s top scoring offenses, for example. Here’s a look at how the ACC’s bowls rank this year, starting with the most intriguing:
1. Discover Orange Bowl
No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 13 Virginia Tech
8:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 3
Virginia Tech’s defense has steadily improved this year, but it will face its biggest challenge since Boise State against Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Stanford has the No. 8 scoring offense in the country at 40.33 points per game.
2. Chick-fil-A Bowl
No. 20 South Carolina vs. No. 23 Florida State
7:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 31
The Seminoles have an opportunity to make a statement against the SEC East champs, but the defense can’t afford the lapses it had in the ACC championship game against Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery. FSU will have to establish the run against a defense that ranks No. 9 in the country in rushing defense with 104.31 yards per game.
3. Hyundai Sun Bowl
Notre Dame vs. Miami
2 p.m. ET, Dec. 31
No, it doesn’t have the Catholics vs. Convicts appeal, but it does have two storied programs each fighting to get back on the right track. The Irish defense enters the game having gone more than 12 quarters without allowing a touchdown, and Miami has yet to decide on who its starting quarterback will be.
4. Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
No. 15 Nevada vs. Boston College
9 p.m. ET, Jan. 9
This might be a better matchup than some would think. The Eagles have one of the most dependable and stingiest defenses in the country, and Nevada’s pistol offense is No. 3 in the country in both rushing and total offense.
5. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
North Carolina vs. Tennessee
6:40 p.m. ET, Dec. 30
UNC’s secondary will face one of the better groups of receivers in the SEC, and the passing game for both schools will be the highlight. Statistically, these teams are similar, but T.J. Yates has the edge in experience over true freshman quarterback Tyler Bray.
6. Champs Sports Bowl
No. 22 West Virginia vs. North Carolina State
6:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 28
This game will feature two dynamic quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Geno Smith. WVU is No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to just 12.75 points and NC State’s offense is averaging 32.58.
7. Advocare V100 Independence Bowl
Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
5 p.m. ET, Dec. 27
This might be the fastest game of the season, with both teams trying to control the clock with their nation-leading running games. Paul Johnson has some history in this game, as he defeated the Falcons five straight times while he was head coach at Navy.
8. Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman
East Carolina vs. Maryland
2:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 29
The Pirates and Terps have something in common -- they both beat NC State. ECU quarterback Dominique Davis has produced some outstanding numbers, but the Pirates’ defense has been one of the worst in the country.
9. Meineke Car Care Bowl
South Florida vs. Clemson
Noon ET, Dec. 31
This game will feature two of the nation’s top defenses, but will offer little in the way of offense. South Florida is No. 103 in the country in total offense, and Clemson is No. 87.